The sixth annual Big Sky State Games National Anthem Contest winner is The Fab Five.
The West Yellowstone group consists of Olivia Gospodarek, Jill Carter, Bailee Parker, Jewlz Collins and Jenna Heine.
The West Yellowstone High School juniors are involved in every sport the school has to offer as well as the drama department. The Fab Five have been friends since the second grade.
They started singing in seventh grade when their accompanist, Gary Wondrak, introduced the contest winning arrangement of the National Anthem to them. They now sing this at every home volleyball, football and basketball game.
The support from their community encourages the girls to get out and try new things, which is why they decided to enter the National Anthem Contest, a news release said.
The Fab Five will sing the National Anthem at the 30th annual Big Sky State Games Opening Ceremonies on Friday, July 17, at Wendy’s Field at Daylis Stadium in Billings.
Gates open at 5:30 p.m. and the Parade of Athletes begins at 7:30 p.m.
To register for the Big Sky State Games visit www.bigskygames.org or call (406) 254-7426 for information.
Big Sky State Games major sponsors are Kampgrounds of America, First Interstate Bank, Scheels, and BlueCross BlueShield of Montana.
Last Updated on Thursday, 28 May 2015 22:53
MISSOULA – The University of Montana, recently named Montana’s host for the “First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare,” national tour, has announced that the First Folio exhibition will be on display in the Montana Museum of Art and Culture and open to the public May 9-31, 2016.
“We are extremely excited to partner with the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library and so many fine organizations to celebrate the extraordinary contributions Shakespeare made to mankind,” said Barbara Koostra, MMAC director. “The exhibit promises exceptional cultural opportunities for our state.”
The First Folio is the first complete collected edition of William Shakespeare’s plays, published in 1623, seven years after his death. Compiled by two of Shakespeare’s fellow actors, it preserves 36 of Shakespeare’s plays. Without it, we would not have 18 of those plays, including “Macbeth,” “Julius Caesar,” “Twelfth Night,” “The Tempest” and “Antony and Cleopatra.”
The MMAC will be the only location in Montana to display the folio during its tour around the country. Koostra is hopeful students and groups from around the state will make the trip to see the historical artifact during its stay in Missoula.
“We are thrilled we will be able to showcase the folio on campus in May 2016,” said Julie Biando Edwards, an associate professor at the Mansfield Library. “This is a wonderful opportunity for the community. We’re especially pleased that parents and families visiting for graduation will be able to see it.”
UM and its partners will offer related programming while the First Folio is on campus, including an opening reception at the MMAC; lectures by UM English Professor John Hunt and Penn State Professor Emerita Linda Woodbridge on “Shakespeare, Jonson and Literary Immortality” and “The First Folio: What it Means, What it Means”; Montana Public Radio programming related to Shakespeare; the Missoula Children’s Theatre program “Versed in Verse” for students in grades 9-12; programs and art activities from the Children’s Museum Missoula; Montana Association of Teachers of English Language Arts’ professional development workshop for pre-service and experienced teachers; and the Missoula Writing Collaborative’s writing workshop for ages 8-14.
“This is an excellent opportunity for the library, in collaboration with MMAC and other cultural institutions in Montana, to bring this exceptional educational event to the UM campus and the community,” said Shali Zhang, Mansfield Library dean. “We are looking forward to the opening of the exhibit in May 2016.”
The Folger Shakespeare Library holds 82 copies of the First Folio, the largest collection in the world, and more than a third of the 233 known copies. It is believed that 750 copies originally were printed. The library, in partnership with Cincinnati Museum Center and the American Library Association, is exhibiting the folio in all 50 states in 2016.
Last Updated on Thursday, 28 May 2015 22:52
As the world of education is changing and becoming more technology-oriented, the art of cursive writing, which was once strongly encouraged, is slowly but surely falling to the wayside.
“I think a big part of it is just our access to technology,” said Kim Anthony, the executive director of curriculum and instruction for the Billings Public Schools system. “People simply don’t have to write as much anymore. It’s not just cursive that is fading away – writing in general is also disappearing. There are a lot of people who only use cursive to sign their name. A lot of professions don’t require it anymore.”
Despite this, Ms. Anthony continues to insist on teaching cursive writing to Billings’ youngest learners. A hybrid of printing and cursive – known as D-Nealian printing – is taught to kindergarteners and first- and second-graders. Meanwhile, formal cursive instruction is given to third- and fourth-graders.
Ms. Anthony feels that the skill is still valuable because it helps develop students’ literacy skills.
“Kids need to be able to read and write all different kinds of fonts,” she said. “Every book that you see has a different typeset and a different font, so one of the things that we focus in on – especially in the first-grade level – is all the different ways a letter can be seen. It can be in cursive, print or something in between. So cursive is just an important part of the literacy skills that we teach.”
Ms. Anthony also said that cursive writing was a valuable skill that students could use on the rare occasions when they could not easily access a computer.
Although cursive is still being taught in Billings public schools, Susan Irion – a literacy coach who has been working in School District 2 for more than 30 years – acknowledges that it is not being enforced as much as in previous years.
“When I grew up, teachers obsessed about cursive,” Irion said. “But for me, as a teacher, I want kids to be able to easily form the letters so that they can put their energy into the thoughts behind what they’re writing. Otherwise, it becomes too much about drawing the letters and not enough about actually learning.”
Ms. Anthony said that enforcement of cursive writing after the fourth grade should be dependent on the individual learning styles of students. Thus, for many students, it is often not reinforced and reviewed after elementary school.
Despite their acknowledgement that “cursive is in a state of transition right now,” both Ms. Irion and Ms. Anthony said that it will continue to be part of the curriculum of Billings Public Schools for the foreseeable future.
“I can’t foresee getting rid of it any time soon, because it is a skill that our students will need to have in order to be literate in many different forms,” Ms. Anthony said.
A lack of cursive writing is also being seen by teachers in higher education. Andrew Kirk, an English professor at Rocky Mountain College for 18 years, says that nearly all students in his classes print when working on handwritten assignments.
From Kirk’s perspective, the absence of cursive writing and reading isn’t all that important.
“I don’t really miss cursive writing,” he said. “As for reading old documents in the original script, I don’t see it as that important – one can appreciate the aesthetics of a document, in addition to its words, even without deciphering all the script.”
Others at Rocky – including Academic Vice President Steve Germic - echoed Kirk’s statements, saying that cursive writing was an “artifact not likely to be seen again” and that they wouldn’t especially miss it.
However, the script did have a few defenders among RMC faculty. Anthony Piltz, who has taught accounting at the college for 25 years, feels that it has several values.
“I find the decline in cursive writing to be unfortunate, as cursive writing adds to the aesthetic of the written word,” Mr. Piltz said. “Well written material just looks better in cursive … . I also think it is much faster to write in cursive. This attribute would serve my students well on long tests.”
Piltz also acknowledged that cursive writing was important because it encouraged cursive literacy. He said that “something was lost” when people were unable to read historical documents like the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution in their original forms.
Last Updated on Thursday, 21 May 2015 12:29
Darcie Howard, director of the Montana Audubon Center, was not impressed when she first heard about something called a “nature play space.”
The center’s mission is to get children out into nature, into the wild, so creating a manmade “natural area” didn’t seem like a very good idea.
“I was a little turned off by it at first,” she said. That was a couple of years ago. She heard a lot more about the concept last summer, when she attended a meeting of nature center directors in Michigan. In time, she said, she came to understand and embrace the idea.
Billings-area residents will be able to judge for themselves starting this Saturday, when a ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned for the Shepard Nature Play Space just south of the Audubon’s big wet lab building at 7026 S. Billings Blvd., which adjoins Norm’s Island.
The one-acre play space will have a culvert tunnel and balance beams, boulders, huge bird nests that can be disassembled and rearranged, a “music corner” with a mahogany drum in the shape of a turtle, a sledding hill and plenty of room just to explore and play with natural materials.
Howard said the area will give children a compact, accessible — it’s also accessible to people with disabilities — play space that can serve as a portal to the wider world of nature.
“One of the reasons kids don’t go out in woods and play is because parents don’t think it’s safe,” Howard said.
The nature area will also be good for the Audubon Center, Howard said. The center serves 5,000 people a year through its various programs, “but we don’t have a lot of foot traffic here.” She hopes that will change with the nature area, which will be open free of charge during daylight hours seven days a week.
It will also tie in with a new offering next fall: the Fledgling Nature Preschool, which will be offered from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Kids who attend the preschool will spend 80 percent of their time outside, regardless of the weather.
“There is no bad weather, just bad clothing,” Howard said.
Planning for the play space began last summer at a brainstorming session involving City Council members, Audubon Center staff and community members. Those plans were refined and formalized by Peaks to Plains Design, and they continue to be tweaked.
Howard said some changes have arisen from watching how kids use the space, which they have been doing since the first bit of dirt-moving began. One feature involved wooden dowels attached to a log, the idea being that kids would slip pieces of wood with holes drilled in the middle over the dowels. But some of the young visitors quickly snapped the dowels off and used them for a swordfight.
“OK, lesson learned, right?” Howard said. New plans call for much smaller dowels, to make them less tempting.
The cost of the project came to about $63,000. Howard said she raised all the money needed in a capital campaign, and an extra $8,000 collected was put into a reserve account for maintenance and upgrades at the site.
The main donor was Nick Cladis, the owner of Cladis Investment Advisory. The play space was named for his grandson, Shepard, who lives in Colorado. Howard said the 4-year-old will be at the ribbon-cutting ceremony Saturday.
Other major donors included Phillips 66, the Harry L. Willett Foundation and the Billings West Rotary. Good Earth Works, which did the earth-moving and molding to prepare the site, also donated a good portion of its services, Howard said.
Most of the remaining work was done by 182 volunteers who turned out to help on April 18 as part of the center’s Earth Day observances.
The Montana Audubon Center, developed in partnership with the Yellowstone River Parks Association, is located on a 54-acre site that used to be a gravel mine.
The ribbon-cutting will begin Saturday morning at 11 with an introduction and thank-yous from Howard and Cladis. After the ceremony, the play area will be officially opened to the public.
Last Updated on Thursday, 14 May 2015 15:25
HELENA – The rate of suicide for Montana children ages 10 to 17 is more than double the national rate, and young people in Montana are most likely to kill themselves with guns.
A new report from Montana Kids Count delves into the statistics and makes the case for more education and prevention to reduce the rate.
Karl Rosston, Suicide Prevention Coordinator at the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, says that means recognizing warning signs and risks such as feelings of hopelessness, being a burden to others and talk about not being afraid to die. He adds that when there is risk, homes need to be suicide proof.
“Meaning that firearms are safely stored in the house - that kids can only use them with adult supervision,” he stresses. “That’s vital. And also that there’s not easy access to prescription medications or old medications in the home.”
Rosston says warning signs and risks merit a call to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), a trip to the emergency room or quick doctor appointment, and don’t leave the person alone.
Suicide isn’t just a children’s issue in Montana. The state has the highest rate for all ages in the country.
Rosston has found that parents of suicide victims often claim they didn’t notice anything different, although peers did.
He recommends that anyone seeing suicide signs, speak up, and recognize that more education is needed to equip young people with life skills.
“We really are advocating for earlier interventions as far as teaching kids as early as first and second grade coping skills and resiliency skills, so they can better deal with adversities as they come up in life,” he says.
The report highlights programs developed for schools and for various communities, and points out they could be expanded.
Also, as suicide rates for American Indian children are higher than for other Montana children, the use of culturally appropriate prevention strategies needs to be expanded as well.
Last Updated on Thursday, 14 May 2015 15:23
Midway through National Child Abuse Prevention Month, local doctor Eric Arzubi reminded Billings residents that child abuse is a very real problem in Billings.
“Every single day, I see multiple kids come through our emergency room dealing with the consequences of being abused and neglected,” Arzubi said. “So every time you go by Billings Clinic, remember that there were three, four or five kids that went in there that day due to these problems. And remember long after this month is over that this is a very real problem in our city. In fact, it’s more than a problem. It’s a crisis.”
Arzubi, who has worked as a child psychiatrist at Billings Clinic since 2013, was the keynote speaker at the seventh annual Pinwheels for Prevention event on the lawn of the Yellowstone Country Courthouse last Thursday. County Commissioner Bill Kennedy and a representative of Sen. Jon Tester were among the 40 people in attendance at the event sponsored by the Family Tree Center.
Through his work experience, Arzubi has seen firsthand that abuse and neglect can negatively affect children for the rest of their lives. These effects can include mental health issues such as anxiety and PTSD, but can also be manifested late in life in the form of physical ailments such as heart disease, liver disease and COPD. Victims of neglect and abuse are also more likely to abuse drugs, drop out of school, have teenage pregnancies and commit suicide.
Child abuse is indeed a problem in Montana and across the country. Over 1 million children are affected across the United States and there were 3,675 substantiated cases of child abuse in Montana during Fiscal Year 2014. Of those, 562 were in Yellowstone County.
Arzubi acknowledged that there is no easy fix to these problems. Rather, he said that it can only be fixed one family at a time by parents who are proactive in the lives of their children.
“There is no medication that fixes this,” Arzubi said. “The solution needs to be found in the family system – it always has and always will be.”
Arzubi argued that the most important step in the fight against child abuse will occur when parents realize that they don’t have to be perfect, and that it’s OK to find help through reading parenting books and attending seminars.
“We need to destigmatize looking for help,” Arzubi said. “I need help as a father every day and I’m a child psychiatrist. I’ve studied this stuff a lot and know all there is to know about parenting. But I’ve screwed up every single day as a parent. We all need help every day. It’s hard to raise a kid – let alone two or three or four.”
Arzubi also encouraged parents to recognize their failures and to not blame the child for the problems in the family.
“Stop pointing at the kid,” he said. “What’s happening in the kid is likely a reflection of what’s going on in the family. Start by looking at yourself as a parent and seeing what you can do to improve. It’s hard to do. It sucks to admit that you’re making mistakes, but it is incredibly worthwhile.”
Stacy Dreessen, executive director of the Family Tree Center, agreed with Arzubi and said that simple preventative measures like the ones mentioned pay off in the long run.
“Without recognition and intervention, abuse experienced by children may result in long-term disease, disability, social problems and early death,” Dreessen said. “So prevention can eliminate those human factors as well as the costly monetary factors that accompany them. For every one dollar spent in prevention, $10 are spent in interventions.”
After Arzubi’s speech, Dreessen presented Christy Mamman with the Family Tree Center’s Blue Ribbon award, which honors outstanding child abuse prevention efforts.
Mamman is a single mother of two boys who has volunteered with the Family Tree Center for the past 10 years and has recently been a driving force behind the Tree Center’s annual Festival of Trees fundraiser. She recently joined the Tree Center’s Board of Directors.
The chief event of the afternoon occurred at the beginning of the hour-long ceremony as the attendees planted a “garden” filled with dozens of blue pinwheels.
“The reason we plant pinwheels every April is that a pinwheel is a whimsical child’s toy,” Dreessen said. “As such, it’s really a symbol of a happy, healthy childhood and that’s what every child deserves.”
The Family Tree Center has been providing services to support and strengthen families in Yellowstone County since 1985. The center offers home visits, parent education, respite child care services, violence prevention programs and bullying prevention programs.
It is located at 2520 Fifth Ave. S. For more information, go to www.familytreecenter.org or call 252-9799.
Last Updated on Thursday, 23 April 2015 15:28
Montana State University Billings honored students, organizations and staff last week during the annual Leadership Recognition Program awards banquet held at the Billings Depot.
Nikki Lund was named Outstanding President of the Year for her work with the Gender Studies Club, a student group whose mission is to bring inclusive, diverse discussions to the campus and students of Montana State University Billings while raising awareness of gender issues.
The Gender Studies Club swept the award for Outstanding Academic and Departmental Organization as well as the Outstanding Organization award.
Senior Leadership awards were given to Audrey Econom and Arthur Cherry.
The Outstanding Academic Leadership award went to international student Baudry Metangmo, of Douala in Cameroon, Africa.
Ladies basketball forward player Quinn Peoples took the Athletic Leadership Award.
Health Educators Reaching Others & Encouraging Success (HEROES) took the award for Outstanding Leadership and Programming Organization and its member Reba Borden was named Outstanding Member of an Organization.
Outstanding Residential Leader awards went to Ashely Merical, Connor Ralph, Cody Cooper and Landi Wilson. Overseeing these recipients, Alison Adams received the Outstanding Advisor Award for her work with the Residence Hall Association.
Last Updated on Thursday, 23 April 2015 15:26
For Rocky Mountain College freshman Emily Schaff, a brief meeting with representatives from Special Olympics turned into a collaboration that has launched a number of new initiatives for students at RMC.
During this initial meeting, Schaff met Jami Williamson, the Region 2 Outreach Director for Special Olympics Montana. Schaff expressed her interest in working with Special Olympics and providing opportunities for RMC students. This initiated the planning of “Pledge Day for Spread the Word to End the Word.”
“Spread the Word to End the Word” is a non-profit organization that raises awareness about the derogatory use of the word “retard(ed)” and promotes not using the word in such a way.
The National R-Word Pledge Day took place over RMC’s Spring Break, so R-Word Pledge Day for the Rocky community followed a week later on March 11, 2015. Schaff worked in collaboration with Special Olympics Montana and RMC’s Lunch Out Loud program to set up a pledge table during lunchtime in the student center of RMC. Special Olympics Montana provided a large poster, where students, faculty, and staff could sign their name to make the pledge to not use the “R-Word” in a derogatory way. There was also an opportunity for students to sign up for the Yellowstone Valley Area Games for Special Olympics Montana, which are taking place April 24-25.
“I think it’s important for people to understand why the r-word, retard(ed), is offensive and unnecessary,” said Schaff. She explained how this derogatory term has an even closer meaning to her, as she is the younger sister of a special needs brother. “From my perspective, I find it very offensive because my brother isn’t a stupid person at all.”
“Overall, I think it’s important to teach people that if you want to say something is stupid, say it’s stupid, or dumb, or idiotic, or any other word that is an actual synonym for stupid,” added Schaff. “There’s no need to put people down who can’t control certain things about themselves just so you can look cool or fit in.”
Schaff explained that one of her two older brothers was born deaf with physical characteristics of an autistic individual. She described how her brother taught himself how to use smart phones, computers, and other forms of technology. “Honestly, most of the time he teaches us,” she added.
“Just because my brother is special needs, it doesn’t mean that he should be seen as an individual who isn’t capable of anything,” said Schaff. “The same goes to all other special needs individuals out there.”
During the Pledge Day, Schaff and Special Olympics Montana collected 78 signatures from those who promised not to use the r-word in a derogative manner.
However, Schaff doesn’t plan to stop there. “My future plans with Special Olympics as an individual and as a student assistant for the Office of Community Involvement and Office of Spiritual Life include to be the Special Olympics representative for Rocky Mountain College and be more involved in local activities taking place.”
“For the next academic year, we are looking at recruiting individuals to volunteer at area events in addition to the Area Games,” added Schaff. “We will also invite people to create teams to participate in the Polar Plunge, which is a fundraiser event for the local Special Olympics.” She also plans to make the Pledge Day for Spread the Word to End the Word Day an annual event at RMC.
Schaff is also working with Special Olympics Montana to create an SO College on the RMC campus, which would provide opportunities for students and employees to volunteer and help plan future events for the Special Olympics.
As part of her 20th birthday wish, Schaff also set up aGoFundMe page at http://www.gofundme.com/n9gz58. In lieu of collecting presents for her 20th birthday, Schaff asked for donations to present to the Special Olympics organization during the Pledge Day at RMC. Her goal was $304 (representing her birthday March 4th). On March 11, Schaff gave the Special Olympics program a check for $400 raised through her page.
“Having a special needs brother, I’m forever grateful for organizations like Special Olympics that allow individuals on various levels to compete and be involved on a community level,” said Schaff.
Kim Woeste, RMC’s chaplain and director of spiritual life and church Relations, said, “I can’t say enough good things about Emily. She is truly an exceptional student. I have a great deal of respect for her dedication to volunteering. She is committed to being involved and making a difference in the community, and she motivates others to do the same.”
“To me, it’s inspiring to watch Emily work,” added Woeste. “She organizes service projects and supports partnerships with agencies in town because she cares deeply. Whether it’s with the HUB, Special Olympics, Ronald McDonald House, or with any one of the numerous other agencies we’ve worked with, she’s invested in the success of their efforts.”
“At Rocky Mountain College, I think we strive to provide opportunities for students to find a niche, to excel, and to grow in leadership. Emily exemplifies the best of what a student leader can accomplish in a supportive learning environment,” said Woeste.
Last Updated on Thursday, 16 April 2015 10:53
Over the weekend the Billings Clinic hosted its 27th consecutive science exposition, allowing 415 students from 60 schools across Eastern Montana to explore the question of their choice and show their results. This year’s science competition was held at Montana State University Billings.
The top award in the high school division is an all-expense paid trip to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Pittsburg, Pa. This may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Montana’s best and brightest to compete against the best in the nation or even the world.
All first- through 12th-grade students in Eastern Montana were allowed to compete, at no cost to them, for prizes and awards totaling $15,000.
This money was made available through donations of science-focused people, organizations and companies in and around the Billings area.
When asked why they donate so heavily, Billings Clinic spokeswoman Arianne Snyder replied, “They know how important it is to our future and the future of their companies to encourage and promote interest in the sciences.”
The competition is based not just on the science pursued but also the ability of the budding scientists to give a “stand alone” presentation of their project to a team of judges. The judges then give feedback on the investigative process chosen and their presentation skills.
Practical research questions included “What type of arrow head flies truest?”, “Does the more expensive RV toilet paper bio-degrade more quickly?”, “Which gender has the best color perception and at what age is it most acute?” and the quintessential “Do video games rot your brain?”
The entry by Jack Quandt, fourth-grader at St. Francis Intermediate School, won the Best Plant Science Project Grades 1-6. This special industry award (one-year family pass to ZooMontana) was for his exploration into which homemade additives make a Christmas tree stay fresher longer. He quantified his findings by developing a stress test to monitor the progress of drying as the cut trees aged.
The trip to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, May 10-15, was won by Tyler Stenson, homeschooler, grade 11 of Billings. His research was titled, “The effects of crystallization in the Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge.” Once there he will compete against 1,700 high school students from more than 70 countries, regions and territories similarly awarded for their independent research and compete for more than $5 million in prizes and scholarships.
Last Updated on Thursday, 02 April 2015 10:34
BOZEMAN – For the seventh time in as many years, Montana State University has set an enrollment record for spring semester with 14,323 students enrolled at the university.
MSU’s colleges of engineering, agriculture and business led the growth. Engineering was the university’s fastest-growing college, registering eight percent growth from the previous spring and 20 percent growth over the last two years. It was followed closely by the MSU College of Agriculture, with 6 percent growth over the previous year; and the MSU Jake Jabs College of Business and Entrepreneurship, with 5 percent growth.
Overall, the university’s enrollment was up 221 students from 2014’s spring enrollment of 14,102 students.
It also represents a growth of 623 students over the past two years; MSU’s spring enrollment in 2013 was 13,700 students.
MSU continues to be the largest university in the state of Montana. To address its growth, MSU is seeking funding from the Montana Legislature to renovate its Romney Hall for classrooms, student study space and a new veteran’s center.
The last large-scale state renovation of a campus building at MSU was in 2007 for Gaines Hall. Since then, the university has grown by 3,251 students, or nearly 27 percent.
The 93-year-old Romney Hall sits in the campus’ core and is currently unusable or marginally usable. The Montana Board of Regents placed the Romney renovation as the number one building priority for the university system.
Last Updated on Saturday, 04 April 2015 10:32